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How Happy Hour and Your Favourite Cocktails Effect Neuropathy

Neuropathy & Alcohol

Alcohol affects nerves directly and indirectly. 
Image Source: wikimedia.org

From the comforting warmth of a glass of red wine with dinner to the refreshing coolness of a poolside mojito cocktails or the soothing combination of hot coffee and Baileys after a chilly day, there are many ways for us to enjoy an alcoholic beverage. However, amidst the pleasure of these moments, it’s easy to overlook the potential impact alcohol can have on our nervous system.

Alcohol, despite its widespread social acceptance and cultural significance, exerts profound effects on our nerves that often go unnoticed or ignored. While we savor the taste and relaxation it brings, alcohol quietly disrupts the intricate balance of neurotransmitters and nerve signaling within our bodies.

Although most of us are aware of the detrimental effects alcohol abuse may have, fewer of us realize what alcohol does to our nerves. This conversation is an important one to have because alcohol can cause peripheral neuropathy, something many of us do not realize. Alcohol neuropathy, also called alcoholic neuropathy or alcohol induced neuropathy, is a degradation of nerves due to the abuse of alcohol. In fact, alcohol neuropathy is one of the most common adverse effects seen in patients with chronic alcoholism (Sadowski and Houck, 2019).

How Does Drinking Alcohol like Cocktails Cause Neuropathy?

The development of alcohol neuropathy involves both nutritional deficiencies and the toxic effects of alcohol metabolism on neurons. Prolonged alcohol consumption leads to inadequate intake of essential nutrients vital for nerve health, while alcohol metabolism generates toxic byproducts that harm nerve cells. This combination results in neuropathic symptoms such as tingling, numbness, weakness, and pain. Recognizing these factors underscores the importance of reducing alcohol consumption, addressing nutritional deficiencies, and seeking medical guidance for prevention and management.

Gastro tract issues cause malnutrition.
Image Source: CNA

People who regularly consume alcohol often have issues absorbing nutrients in their gastrointestinal tract which causes malnutrition and nutritional vitamin deficiencies. Among the most common vitamin deficiencies in alcoholics are vitamins B12, folate and most notably B1 (thiamine). Thiamine has roles in both carbohydrate metabolism and neuron/myelin development, and therefore a lack of thiamine in the nervous system affects the cellular structure of neurons making them more susceptible to damage.  Alcohol and its metabolites also has detrimental effects on neurons such as removing the protective layer on a neuron (the myelin sheath).  As alcohol abuse continues, the damage to the nerves continues and worsens.

What Does Alcoholic Neuropathy Look Like?

Alcohol neuropathy manifests itself in similar ways to other neuropathies with symptoms including burning and tingling sensations in the feet, muscle weakness, pins and needles etc. Pain in the lower extremities is often noted as well. The muscle weakness and lack of balance and coordination which accompanies these symptoms of neuropathy can make individuals more at risk for injuring themselves by falling, losing balance, etc. The symptoms of alcohol neuropathy can last anywhere from a few months to years, depending on the severity of the nerve damage or deficiencies.

How to Treat Alcoholic Neuropathy?

Alcohol neuropathy continues to worsen over time as alcohol consumption is continued.  To prevent any further damage to the nerves, individuals diagnosed with alcohol neuropathy should immediately cut back their consumption of alcohol.  Treatment should primarily be focused on alcohol sobriety and a replacement of key nutrients.

Sign with the words "liquor prohibited"
Treatment starts with cutting back.
Image Source: CNA

So, if neuropathy is something you are struggling with it is best to limit alcohol use as well as for preventative measures. Like everything in life- moderation is key.

For those struggling with alcohol abuse visit https://www.ccsa.ca/

Donations keep us moving!

Empower us in the fight against neuropathy’s impacts. Let’s give everyone the chance to fight for themselves.

Related CNA Resources


Alcohol.org. (2019). Alcoholic Polyneuropathy: Nerve Damage, Sensitivity, Coordination. [online] Available at: https://www.alcohol.org/comorbid/polyneuropathy/

Sadowski, A. and Houck, R. (2019). Alcoholic Neuropathy. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499856.

The Foundation For Peripheral Neuropathy. (2019). Alcohol & Peripheral Neuropathy – Pins & Needles, Nerve Damage. [online] Available at: https://www.foundationforpn.org/what-is-peripheral-neuropathy/causes/alcohol/.

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